Vita Servii

How to quote this translation

M = reading of the whole MS tradition
m = reading of part of the MS tradition
P = reading on a papyrus

in exponendis auctoribus haec consideranda sunt: poetae uita, titulus operis, qualitas carminis, scribentis intentio, numerus librorum, ordo librorum, explanatio. Vergilii haec uita est. Patre Vergilio matre Magia fuit. ciuis Mantuanus, quae ciuitas est Venetiae. Diuersis in locis operam litteris dedit; nam et Cremonae et Mediolani et Neapoli studuit. adeo autem uerecundissimus fuit, ut ex moribus cognomen acciperet; nam dictus est Parthenias, omni uita probatus. uno tantum morbo laborabat; nam inpatiens libidinis fuit. Primum ab hoc distichon factum est in Ballistam latronem:

monte sub hoc lapidum tegitur Ballista sepultus:
nocte die tutum carpe uiator iter
Anth. Lat. 261

scripsit etiam septem siue octo libros hos: Cirin, Aetnam, Culicem, Priapeia, Catalepton, Epigrammata, Copam, Diras. Postea ortis bellis ciuilibus inter Antonium et Augustum, Augustus uictor Cremonensium agros, quia pro Antonio senserant, dedit militibus suis, qui cum non sufficerent, his addidit agros Mantuanos, sublatos non propter ciuium culpam, sed propter uicinitatem Cremonensium, unde ipse in Bucolicis:

Mantua uae miserae nimium uicina Cremonae. Ecl. 9.28

amissis ergo agris Romam uenit et usus patrocinio Pollionis et Maecenatis solus agrum, quem amiserat, meruit. Tunc ei proposuit Pollio ut carmen bucolicum scriberet, quod eum constat triennio scripsisse et emendasse. item proposuit Maecenas Georgica, quae scripsit emendauitque septem annis. Postea ab Augusto Aeneidem propositam scripsit annis undecim, sed nec emendauit nec edidit, unde eam moriens praecepit incendi. Augustus uero, ne tantum opus periret, Tuccam et Varium hac lege iussit emendare, ut superflua demerent, nihil adderent tamen, unde et semiplenos eius inuenimus uersiculos, ut ‘hic cursus fuit’ et aliquos detractos, ut in principio; nam ab ‘armis’ non coepit, sed sic:

ille ego qui quondam gracili modulatus auena
carmen et egressus siluis uicina coegi,
ut quamuis auido parerent arua colono,
gratum opus agricolis, at nunc horrentia Martis
arma uirumque cano

et in secundo hos uersus constat esse detractos et… detractos m: et in secundo libro aliquos uersus posuerat quos constat esse detractos, quos inueniemus cum peruenerimus ad locum de quo detracti sunt m (cf. Hardie in app.) [Aen. 2.566-89].

periit autem Tarenti in Apuliae ciuitate. nam dum Metapontum cupit uidere, ualetudinem ex solis ardore contraxit. sepultus est autem Neapoli, in cuius tumulo ab ipso compositum est disticon tale:

Mantua me genuit, Calabri rapuere, tenet nunc
Parthenope. cecini pascua rura duces.

periit ... duces susp. Fraenkel et al.

For authors to be explained, the following should be taken into account: the poet’s life, the title of the work, the poetic genre, the intention of the writer, the number of books, the layout of books, their interpretation. This is the life of Virgil. His father was Virgil, his mother Magia. He was a citizen of Mantua which is a city in Veneto. He devoted his attention to letters in different places and studied at Cremona, Milan and Naples. He was so very modest that his behaviour led to a nickname: he was called ‘Maidenly’, and was upright in every aspect of his life. He worked with only one deficiency: he was unable to control his sexual desire. The first couplet he produced was on the thief Ballista:

Under this heap of stones Ballista is buried,
By night or day, traveller, safely make your way.

He also wrote these seven or eight works: Ciris, Aetna, Culex, Priapeia, Catalepton, Epigrams, Copa, Dirae. After the civil war had begun between Antony and Augustus, Augustus as victor granted his soldiers the lands of the people of Cremona, because they had been sympathizers of Antony. But since these territories were not enough, he added to them the lands of Mantua: these were requisitioned not because of any fault of the citizens, but because of their proximity to those of the people of Cremona. Hence the poet wrote in his Bucolics:

Mantua, alas, all too near to wretched Cremona.

After thus losing his lands he went to Rome and taking advantage of the patronage of Pollio and Maecenas, he alone won back the land he had lost. Then Pollio proposed to him that he write bucolic poetry, which it is known he wrote and corrected within three years. Then Maecenas suggested the Georgics, which he wrote and corrected in seven years. Next he wrote the Aeneid, as suggested by Augustus in eleven years, but Virgil neither corrected nor published it so that as he was dying he gave instructions for it to be burnt. But so that the work would not perish, Augustus then ordered Tucca and Varius to emend it on this principle: to remove what was superfluous, but not to add anything. Hence we find some of his half-complete short verses such as ‘hic cursus fuit’ and others which were taken away as at the opening: the poem did not begin with ‘arma’, but like this:

I am he who once composed poetry in a pastoral strain,
and then coming from the woods I compelled the neighbouring fields
to obey their owner, however demanding. That work
was pleasant for farmers but now of Mars’s bristling
arms and of the man I sing

and in the second book it was agreed these verses should be removed [Aen. 2.566-89].

Virgil died in Tarento, a city in Apulia, where he fell ill from the heat of the sun as he was keen to see Metapontum. He was thus buried at Naples and on his tomb is this couplet, composed by Virgil himself:

Mantua gave birth to me, Calabria snatched me away, now
Parthonope holds me; I sang of pastures,the countryside, and leaders.

Relevant guides Virgil